The average American wedding reception typically consumes about half of a bride and groom’s wedding budget. The largest portion comes from the cost of the food itself. This is true regardless of whether you choose to host a formal sit-down dinner or go buffet-style.
Choosing between the two formats depends on several things, including the capabilities of your venue (e.g. number of servers available or space for buffet tables), the number of guests you invite, and your general style preferences.
Either way, here are some clever ways to help manage those costs:
- Choose a venue that allows you to bring in a caterer of your choosing.
- Tap young, local talent eager to build a reputation. Students from a nearby culinary institute or restaurant management school might just be your best resource for the money.
- Consider a cash bar after either the cocktail hour or dinner.
- Choose menu items with fewer prep steps in kitchen. Time is money!
- Serve seasonal. Ask your caterer what fresh foods will be in season during your wedding and fill your menu selections with them.
- Leave the meat out of hors d’oevres. Ask your caterer to consider items using pastries, cheeses, legumes and fruits.
- Befriend bread. Bread stations with dipping sauces are an inexpensive crowd pleaser.
- Pass up passed hors d’oevres, or at least limit them. Instead, set up stationary appetizers for people to help themselves.
- Beef doesn’t have to mean Filet. Sirloin is as tasty a cut of beef when prepared well.
- Dress up pasta. Look for unexpected ways to prepare pasta, again using seasonal vegetables.
- Borrow. If your venue is not all-inclusive, there may be items (servingware, linens, etc.) you can borrow. Check with your caterer first to find out what they supply.
- Know which menu items are standard and which items will cost extra. If your heart is set on something, many caterers will serve upgraded items just for the wedding party.
- Think outside the cake…stacked strawberry pies for summer, or lemony-iced cupcake towers in winter. Or, have a small wedding cake and serve guests from an identical, behind-the-scenes sheet cake.
- Go formal if you plan on 150+ guests. Served sit-down dinners control portions and number of servings, not to mention eliminate long lines at a buffet. Just make sure you will have enough servers to accommodate the number of tables.
- Set the menu rather than offering menu options. Provide a single alternative only for guests who request it. This eliminates the need to include menu selection cards in your wedding invitations.
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